Kings coach Alan Solomons says their pre-season matches were all about giving players from across the region the chance to stake a Super Rugby claim.
The South-Eastern Cape franchise has fielded two different teams over the past three weeks against the five South African Super Rugby sides. The Kings team made up of EP players lost 16-12 to the Bulls and 38-13 to the Stormers in PE, and will play the Sharks at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday night. The Kings side drawn only from Border and SWD, the other two provinces in the franchise, went down 33-20 to the Cheetahs in East London before being thrashed 88-0 by the Lions in George.
‘To play five South African franchises in 20 days is a huge ask, in fact it’s physically impossible to do it with one side,’ Solomons told keo.co.za. ‘Having a combined Border-SWD team helped to break up that schedule. More importantly, it gave us the chance to see all the players in the region play against top quality opposition, which enables us to assess them better. That’s what we wanted to achieve from these five games, nothing more.’
Border players dominated the Border-SWD Kings side and while they were humiliated by the Lions, Solomons says he was pleased with their performance against the Cheetahs.
‘[Border centre] Dwayne Jenner did really well in that game and he’s going to play for us against the Sharks on Friday with Jaco Bekker being out. I was also impressed by [Border flank] Roy Bursey, a young boy from Selborne College who spent a year at the Sharks Academy. [Border flank] Gareth Krause and [SWD No 8] Michael Vermaak also played very well.’
Solomons, though, is realistic and admits the Kings will have to bring in players from outside the region if they are to be competitive in Super Rugby next year.
‘We will be going on a recruitment drive, targeting South Africans in Europe who will be out of contract in June at the end of the current northern-hemisphere season, as well as players from other South African provinces, especially those who hail from the Eastern Cape.’
Southern Kings (to play Sharks) – 15 Tiger Mangweni, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Dwayne Jenner, 12 Wayne Stevens, 11 Norman Nelson, 10 Shane Gates, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Vleis Engelbrecht, 7 Mpho Mbiyozo, 6 Boetie Britz, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Darron Nell (c), 3 Clint Newland, 2 Hannes Franklin, 1 Jaco Engels.
Subs: 16 Bobby Dyer, 17 Zane Killian, 18 Andre Schlechter, 19 Wayne van Heerden, 20 Reynier Bernardo, 21 Thembelani Bholi, 22 Siya Mangaliso, 22 Danie Faasen, 23 Earl Rose, 24 Matthew Tayler-Smith, 25 Kieran Goss.
By Simon Borchardt, in Port Elizabeth